The number of cases filed in Indiana courts in 2011 is the lowest since 2004, according to exhaustive data in the annual Judicial Service Report released Monday.
About 1.68 million new cases were filed in trial courts last year, and expenses for all courts likewise declined. Courts spent about $392.5 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, down slightly from the $393.3 million spent in the prior fiscal year.
“Other than the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, I can’t think of any other agency of state government that touches so many Hoosiers,” Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson said Monday at a news conference where the annual report “Honored to Serve” was released.
The 1,725-page report can be viewed online. The report and those from prior years also are available for review in the Indiana Supreme Court Law Library.
Dickson said the courts continue to be underfunded and judges’ workloads are still higher than they should be. He noted that only about 1 percent of the state budget funds courts, and the bulk of funding is picked up by local government.
Dickson said he intends to talk with lawmakers in the 2013 legislative session about the need to boost court funding, particularly for technology that he said would save taxpayers money and improve court efficiency. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said Dickson has suggested an increase in court filing fees to fund improvements in court technology.
A boost of funding might be needed because the data shows the courts collecting significantly less in filing fees, user fees and other revenue. During fiscal year 2010-2011, the figure was $211.8 million collected – a 9 percent decline from collections in the prior fiscal year that topped $232.8 million.
The number of cases rising through the appellate courts is down significantly, Dickson said. Last year the Supreme Court heard 84 cases compared to between 90 and 100 in typical years.
“Our numbers are down, the Court of Appeals numbers are down,” Dickson said. “We’re sort of scratching our heads” trying to determine why.
The data doesn’t always provide answers to the decreases in cases, he said. The information does not, for instance, indicate the number of potential filings that were averted by alternate dispute resolution. On the appellate level, it doesn’t consider cases that higher courts believe the trial court got right, or a potential decline in the number of appeals because of the cost.
Examples of data in the 2011 report highlighted by court staff include:
- Indiana courts have seen an 11 percent decrease in the number of cases filed since 2002.
- 193 murder cases were filed in 2011, a 31 percent decrease since 2002.
- 1,298 civil and criminal jury trials were held statewide – approximately one for every 1,300 cases filed.
- About one in five cases involved a pro se litigant.
- There were 30,272 mortgage foreclosure filings, a 31 percent decline from 2007
- The 10,665 Child In Need of Services cases is down 12 percent from 2010
An interpreter was used in 13,992 cases.